The future of nuclear energy in Durham Region

Photo by Matthew Pellerin

Kevin Powers in front of the Pickering Nuclear Facility.

Pickering Nuclear Generating Facility’s operating license is up for renewal in 2018, but at least one organization hopes it gets shut down.

The Ontario Clean Air Association (OCAA) is petitioning to close Pickering Nuclear.

“Pickering is an aging nuclear station,” says Angela Bischoff of the OCAA. “It’s already well beyond its design life.”

The OCAA’s online petition to close Pickering has already garnered almost 8,000 signatures. The petition suggests any extension in production at the facility poses a risk to Durham’s population. OCAA lists on its petition that waste disposal, it’s proximity to large populations and a troubled safety history, as reasons for the closure.

“The station will be 57 years old [by the end of the extension]. It was only designed to last 30 years,” says Bischoff. “When will we say enough is enough?”

Nuclear power has been a staple in Durham Region and the rest of Ontario, since the commissioning of Pickering in the 1970s.

In recent years Ontario has seen the closure of coal generating stations due to environmental concerns. Nuclear energy hasn’t exactly escaped unscathed either

The Ontario Power Generation says that nuclear energy is not only a clean, zero-emission source, but also vital to Ontario’s power supply.

“Nuclear power provides most of the baseload power for the province,” says Kevin Powers, OPG’s director of Public Affairs. “Baseload power is the power that you need 24/7, seven days a week.”

Pickering’s future will be decided in August 2018, when the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission releases its decision on a potential license extension for the aging facility.

If granted, OPG says the facility will operate until 2022, at which point a partial shutdown will begin with operation ceasing entirely by 2024.

OPG points out the decommission of the plant would be a multi-decade operation and could potentially employ almost 16,000 people to offset the 3,000 currently employed at the facility.

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Matthew Pellerin is a second year journalism student at Durham College. He enjoys writing about politics, technology, and news ranging from around the world, the local community, to right on campus. When he's not waxing poetically on his blog, he's usually nose-deep in world news.